From Insecurity to Sovereignty

Like the manna in the desert, food aid policies often do not foster real freedom.

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Food Sovereignty

It is clear that both today and in biblical times, food security is not enough; the goal must be "food sovereignty," an approach that advocates for the right of people, particularly farmers and peasants, to control their own access to and production of food.

La Via Campesina, an international movement for food justice, defines food sovereignty as: "The right of peoples to define their own food and agriculture; to protect and regulate domestic agricultural production and trade in order to achieve sustainable development objectives; to determine the extent to which they want to be self reliant."

This ideal was achieved by the Israelites when they entered the Promised Land. The manna ceased to fall, thus ending the period of transition in the wilderness, in which they had security, but not sovereignty over what they ate.

Empowered to control the production and distribution of their food, the Israelites were able to perform much more complex and beautiful ethical mitzvot than the commandment in Parashat B'shalah to simply collect a daily portion of manna. They were able to care for the earth, practicing the shmitah year, and they were able to care for the disadvantaged, leaving the corners of their field un-harvested.

We witness the journey of the Israelites from food insecurity to food security, and arriving at food sovereignty. Let us support initiatives that seek to overthrow the shackles of dependency, enabling all people to exercise control over food production, distribution, and consumption. This is a profound expression of freedom.

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Alana Alpert

After receiving rabbinic ordination from Hebrew College in June 2014, Alana will serve as the Rabbi/Organizer of Project Micah in Detroit, an exciting collaboration between Congregation T'chiyah and the Harriet Tubman Center. A trained community organizer, educator, and service-learning facilitator, she has worked in a number of Jewish and interfaith social justice organizations. She is passionate about the intersections of spiritual practice and social change.